First They Came For Assange: Trump’s War on Truth Will Kill 1st Amendment
Washington, D.C. – America is on the precipice of venturing into dangerous uncharted territory that could essentially destroy what underpins the fabric of American: a free and independent press. If the United States attempts to arrest and prosecute Julian Assange, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated, he will become the first journalist in modern history to be prosecuted in an American courtroom for publishing classified information – something regularly undertaken by traditional media outlets.
While WikiLeaks may not appear to be a traditional journalism outlet, there is no question that the service they provide – publishing legitimate, accurate, and truthful information from sources – is exactly what journalism was meant to be.
Make no mistake that attempting to prosecute Assange signals a new and dangerous phase in the United States’ ongoing war on freedom of information, and presents a direct threat to freedom of the press in the U.S.
The Trump administration is attempting to forward the notion that Assange doesn’t have a First Amendment right, as he is not a U.S. citizen. And while true that he is not a U.S. citizen, freedom of information is a universal human right, and isn’t dependent upon U.S. law – nor is it dependent upon being a U.S. citizen — as it is a universal human right of all humans upon birth — with no government permission necessary.
These potential legal actions against Assange will undoubtedly threaten the existence of a truly free press in the United States and could signal a dramatic shift towards totalitarianism.
“Any prosecution would be incredibly dangerous for the First Amendment and pretty much every reporter in the United States,” Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation told Wired. “You can hate WikiLeaks all you want, but if they’re prosecuted, that precedent can be turned around and used on all the reporters you do like.”
Reports from both CNN and the Washington Post, both of which act as regular leak conduits for the intelligence community, reported that Jeff Sessions and the DOJ are likely to charge Assange and other “members” of the WikiLeaks organization.
The reports indicate that the charges will stem from WikiLeaks’ recent Vault 7 publication of classified CIA materials, which included highly secret hacking tools and techniques, as well as the groups publication of 250,000 State Department cables, provided by Chelsea Manning, which became known as Cablegate. Just last week, CIA director Mike Pompeo labeled WikiLeaks as a “non-state, hostile intelligence agency” in a foreshadowing of these most recent revelations.
Contrary to these assertions by Pompeo, WikiLeaks is the pinnacle of journalism not tainted by state intelligence agencies and propaganda. Their steadfast adherence to transparency leaves them unrivaled in terms of presenting honest, raw, truth. In fact, since its inception, WikiLeaks has a perfect record for presenting legitimate, verified document. State intelligence agencies loathe WikiLeaks, and denounce it as a “non-state, hostile intelligence agency” for one very important reason – WikiLeaks acts as a non-state intelligence agency for the people of the world, thus allowing us to see what the plutocratic oligarchy would like to keep hidden.
The journalistic work engaged in by WikiLeaks, without question, qualifies for protection under the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment.
There is a clear and present danger that the Trump administration, by prosecuting Assange and WikiLeaks, will up the ante on Obama’s war on whislteblowers, which saw more journalist prosecuted as spies under the draconian Espionage Act, than all previous presidential administrations combined.
Prior to Obama, the US Justice Department had chosen not to typically test the protections of press freedom – although there are exceptions, as the phenomena really began with the prosecution of John Kiriakou during the G.W Bush administration. These new revelations, by the Trump administration, could represent a new and extremely dangerous crack in the government’s standard policy of generally respecting reporters’ First Amendment protections.
Statements by former Obama DOJ spokesman, Matthew Miller, expose the slippery slope in charging Assange, highlighting exactly how serious the potential repercussions could be for press freedoms in the U.S.:
“Every time we looked at this, it’s hard to figure out how you charge Julian Assange with publishing classified information without setting the precedent that you charge reporters for doing the same thing,” Miller says. “If he asked Manning to give him documents, or provided Manning with tools by which to get him those documents, well, reporters use a lot of those same tools as well.”
ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, who has defended NSA leaker Edward Snowden, went even further, explaining:
“Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public,” Wizner, wrote in a statement to WIRED. “Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.”
Make no mistake that it’s a very slippery slope, and short step, to go from indicting Assange to beginning to indict reporters who dare report on classified intelligence. Furthermore, Trump has already laid the groundwork for this crackdown on a free press by labeling the media “the enemy of the American people.”
Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Timm was clear in his warning to all Americans:
“We shouldn’t doubt for a second that as soon as there’s a precedent on the books that allows [the US government]to prosecute publishers for publishing information they consider classified, they won’t turn that on the Times, the Post, and other vital news institutions. I hope people realize that even if you dislike WikiLeaks in the extreme, prosecuting them is a huge threat to the work reporters do every day.”
The fact that Trump can go from expressing his admiration for WikiLeaks on the campaign trail, to attempting to arrest and prosecute Assange is indicative of a snake oil salesman who says whatever is necessary, and strategically convenient at the time, to achieve the sale.
Donald Trump, October 10, 2016: “This just came out. WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks!” pic.twitter.com/KWP7X2aLiN
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 21, 2017
The problem for Trump is that his most ardent supporters are vehemently against the prosecution of Assange – without question, prosecuting Assange is political suicide for this administration.
This is evidenced by the sentiments expressed on social media by notable Trump supports, such as Mike Cernovich, who broke the Susan Rice unmasking story, as well as the news that McMasters wants tens of thousands of American soldiers on the ground in Syria.
Cernovich has been a lightning rod for Trump supporters on social media throughout election season and beyond, and has even garnered praise from the likes of Donald Trump, Jr.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 4, 2017
So, when one of Trump’s most public supporters, who has been applauded by Donald Trump, Jr., loudly proclaims on social media that they will be in the streets holding massive protests – the administration might want to take note.
If the prosecution of Assange comes to pass, be aware that propaganda and state controlled information, which is already a major problem, will come to be the only news available — under threat of prosecution. The censorship regime is being rolled out, with the military-intelligence industrial complex in firm control of America.
Will you stand idly by and allow the press freedom, and thus, our ability to discern what is taking place in the world, to be decimated by a security state bent on global warfare and domination?
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Article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.